Lake Como – Villas on the Lake

Did you know Lake Como is only about an hour’s ride from Milan? There are numerous grand villas that line Lake Como.  Taking the slow ferry gives you a glimpse at a few!

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Villa on the lake
Lake Como villa
This screams Italy to me!

Villa Balbianello in Lenno is one of the most scenic residences on the lake and is famous for its terraced gardens.  It was originally built for Cardinal Angelo Durini and sits high up on a hill overlooking Bellagio and the lake. The Loggia Durini is a popular wedding venue. This location has made its way into a variety of movies like Casino Royale and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.

Villa Balbianello, Lenno
Lenno
Loggia Durini

Grand Hotel Tremezzo besides being a magnificent hotel has a floating pool! This historic property was recently renovated and very popular on the Lake. Enjoy the restaurants or the spa.  Terrace dining has you looking over to Bellagio. While here be sure to stop next door and visit Villa Carlotta. Built in 1690 it features a lovely Italian garden. Again, if you are taking the ferry to Bellagio or Varenna you can hop off in Tremezzo to visit here.

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Grand Hotel Tremezzo, floating pool

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is another lovely spot to stay, just lunch or grab a drink. The Villa was built back in the 15th century. The park is not part of the property and the Gardens at Villa Melzi are time better spent.

Villa Serbelloni

Villa D’Este originally had a female convent on this site but it was later demolished to make way for a private residence.  It too has beautiful gardens.  In 1873 it was converted into a hotel and it has seen the likes of many celebs!

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Villa D’Este in Cernobbia

Did you miss the beginning of this series on Lake Como? Here is a link to Part One- Lago di Como – a series

Bellagio- the “pearl” of Lake Como

This lovely village on Lake Como is known for its steep, narrow, stair lined cobbled streets with insane views of the lake. It is one of the most popular stops for tourists visiting the area along with the towns of Varenna and Como.

Bellagio is located at the junction where the “Y” shaped lake divides into two branches. Take it slow, walk around the lanes, stop for a spritz, check out the shops. Don’t miss Villa Melzi gardens or Villa Serbelloni or just walk out of town and explore. Be prepared though!!!! We did this and GPS didn’t work to well to get back into town and we really walked and walked and walked!  Dead end after dead end.

Bellagio road to Villa Melzi

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The old town center faces the west branch of the lake and is lined with cafes and shops at one end is Villa Serbelloni.

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Villa Serbelloni

Warning!!! Wear comfortable shoes as there are lots of stairs to access the higher part of the town.

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In the center of town you’ll find Piazza della Chiesa and the bell tower of the Basilica of San Giacomo, a Romanesque church that can be seen from everywhere.

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Harbor and Bell Tower from Villa Melzi

Even if you aren’t staying overnight you can have a very special lunch at many hotels.  We walked out of town and stopped in at Hotel Belvedere with breathtaking views of the east branch. Lunch was incredible!!!! Hotel Belvedere overlooks the eastern branch of Lake Como and the views here are towards Lierna to the south and towards Fiumellate to its north. Either the dining room or the adjacent patio provide breathtaking views. Hard to believe we had the patio to ourselves while a few guests enjoyed the pool and sun deck. Many hotels welcome non-guests for meals. It is a way I have found to experience a locale I might not be able to afford. Also I don’t know about you but I hate hotel hopping! This kills two birds with one stone!

We took a day trip from Como via the ferries that run daily from Como.  Bellagio is an easy day trip.  The slow ferry takes 2 hours and makes multiple stops along the way and you can hop on and off to explore. There is also a fast ferry.  We took the fast ferry back to Como late afternoon. Get to the docks early and make sure you are at the right one!!! Just sayin’! You might want to stop in Tremezzo to see Villa Carlotta or in Lenno to visit Villa Balbianello. There are many small lovely towns to explore.

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Studio Tecnico Architetto Stefano Catti
Studio Tecnico Architetto Stefano Catti

While in Como check out the silk! Como is one of the best places to buy silk in all of Europe!

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In upcoming blogs I will show you some other sights like Villa Melzi’s gardens and Villa Balbianello.

Did you miss the last 5 blogs on Lake Como? Here is a link to Lago di Como – a series, part One

Lago di Como, a series, part 3

Travel to any town in Italy and you will find beautiful churches. The Como Cathedral as it is known, is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and dates back to 1396. Architecturally fascinating, it mixes Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque features. This is a very important Gothic church in Northern Italy. This Roman Catholic cathedral stands in the Piazza del Duomo a lovely spot to people watch, have a drink or just hang out!

The Cathedral features a Rose window and a very impressive green Rococo cupola dome. The main portal stands between statues of Como natives as well as sculptures of Adam and Eve. The exterior also has sculptures of five other saints. Near the Rose window you will see a statute of God surrounded by other statues.

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Just another Monday evening in Como! Boys playing cards 🙂

The cathedral has ancient tapestries and paintings and is worth a stop inside.

The Coin department store near the Piazza has a cafe on the roof with lovely views of the Cathedral.

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It’s Spritz time somewhere!

Lake Como sits near the foothills of the Alps on the Italian-Swiss border and is only an hour by train from Milan. The city of Como makes a great home base to visit the other major towns on this lake like Bellagio and Varenna but there are many special towns lining this lake. If you can, hop the slow ferry getting on and off checking out towns like Cernobbia, Lenno and Tremezzo.

Stay tuned for more from Northern Italy! Did you miss Part 2? Lago di Como, part 2

Ready to go to Lago di Como -Part 4

 

Lago di Como, a series, part 2 -Brunate

When you are in the city of Como, Italy on Lake Como don’t miss the chance to ride the funicular up to the small town of Brunate which sits 2346′ above Como. Of course, if you are in no hurry you can hike up! The funicular opened way back in 1894. The breathtaking views of the lake and the town below can’t be matched anywhere! While there walk around or hike to the Volta Lighthouse for more outstanding views.

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Funicular to Brunate
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View from Brunate north towards Switzerland
 
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Como Catheral from Bunate’s Panoramic viewpoint 

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Sitting high on the hill is the Church of Sant’ Andrea Apostolo in Piazza della Chiesa. This quaint lovely church is another nice place to stop and admire the view.

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Church of Sant’ Andrea Apostolo

Stay tuned for more from Lake Como! Did you miss Part 1? Lago di Como

Ready to go on to Lago di Como – Part 3

The Italian Riviera – Santa Margherita Ligure

Santa Margherita Ligure is part of the Ligurian region on the Italian Riviera. We stayed at a wonderful hotel called the Imperiale Palace Hotel.  We chose this specifically because they had both a pool and a beach area so we could unwind after two weeks of traveling around Italy and it was close to the train station and a quick walk into town.

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Imperiale Palace Hotel (pool and beach below)

Here and in Portofino you find the outside of buildings painted with Trompe L’oeil frescoes typical of this part of the Riviera during the Art Nouveau period.  They used the painted exteriors to identify and distinguish their homes. Painting fake balconies, 3D effects, window sills, etc.

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There are many lovely hotels here and in this old fashioned town there is more room to spread out than in The Cinque Terre or in Portofino.  It is a great place to make your home base when staying in the area.  Day trips to Portofino, Genoa, The Cinque Terre and Milan are easy day trips from Santa Margherita Ligure. You can catch a boat to Portofino or the Cinque Terre from the Pier right in town and buses run daily down to Portofino as it is a very short trip.

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Portofino

We arrived via an easy, convenient train ride from Florence. The old town center is so charming with shops, bars and restaurants lining the streets while its glitzy neighbor, Portofino is filled with yachts and movie stars.  Santa Margherita Ligure has a beautiful harbor and beaches with room to enjoy it all since the crowds typically head to Portofino and The Cinque Terre.

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The Cinque Terre is any easy train ride from Santa Margherita Ligure so you can go for the day.  This area is well known for its 5 quaint towns.  You can swim, shop, eat or hike your way from town to town.  The scenery will take your breath away.  Sadly, these towns are very crowded with tourists just like us. Be considerate and don’t ruin this beautiful place for the next group to come. We headed down to Monterosso and hiked to Vernazza (be prepared and dress appropriately and bring water and snacks) then a ferry to Manarola and the train back to Santa Margherita Ligure in time to hit the pool for a quick swim and cocktail!

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Vernazza

Be sure to spend time wandering around in Santa Margherita!! Loved it!

There are farmers markets to enjoy near the Basilica in Piazza Caprera.  Fresh fruits and veggies but the flowers were calling my name!!

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There are statues of both Christopher Columbus and King Victor Emmanuel II in town commemorating the town’s history.

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We walked into town to the Basilica of Santa Margherita.  Be sure to go inside!! The Italian Baroque interior is ornate and the altar features a statue of Our Lady of the Rose since 1756.  The inlaid marble floors and glass chandeliers are remarkable to say the least!

After the Basilica we walked up to Villa Durazzo with its Italian and English Gardens and Chiesa Di San Giacomo Di Corte – wow- gorgeous! They were decorating for a wedding.  It’s well worth the walk up the stairs!! Also the views of the entire harbor are striking.  This Baroque church dates back to 974.

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Harbor views

As you wander you will find other gems: some were closed when we stopped by in our wanderings.

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Oratorio di Sant’Erasmo

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Chiesa dei Frati Cappuccini

This was the last stop in our two week adventure this time and a nice place to slow down and revel in living in Italy, even if just for a few weeks!!  We will return!!

Have you been? I’d love to hear your favorite places.

 

 

Portofino, Italy

Well Portofino is probably the most photographed fishing village on the Italian Riviera! Whatever you have in mind, relaxing is in store since there is not much to actually DO here! Be prepared to just stroll around the boutiques, the harbor and walk up to Castello Brown maybe and of course, don’t forget people watch!

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The yachts that grace this picturesque harbor are luxurious to say the least but it is also full of small fishing boats.  Don’t forget this was always a fishing village!

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It is worth the short hike up to Chiesa di San Giorgio and Castello Brown.  The views from both spots will not disappoint you!

Chiesa di San Giorgio has had a commanding presence over Portofino and the Ligurian Sea since it was constructed in 1154 or perhaps even earlier.  This Romanesque church was sadly bombed during WWII and then reconstructed in 1950.

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Chiesa di San Giorgio

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Chiesa di San Giorgio

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Castello Brown was well suited as a defensive site and was used as such since the 15th century. There are 2 methods to ascent to the Castle. You can walk up the steep staircase or take the winding path up.  We walked up the stairs and down the path which opens up the best panoramic views of this town.

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Castello Brown

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Don’t miss a chance to walk around this picture perfect town!  The brightly colored buildings just beckon you in. Sit and sip in the Piazzetta or at a seaside bar in the U-shaped harbor or grab some gelato, always a favorite.

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Don’t miss the Chiesa di San Martino in town with its beautiful bronze doors is just up the hill off the Piazza.  Note the mosaic on the landing made from rocks gathered on the shore.

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Portofino is a very convenient day trip from Genoa, Milan, the Cinque Terre or the towns just above it of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo.  We made Santa Margherita Ligure our home base to travel the Riviera heading to The Cinque Terre, Portofino and exploring the wonderful town of Santa Margherita Ligure.

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See Santa Margherita in the distance

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If you are looking for luxury; look no further in Portofino than the Belmond Hotel Splendido.  This is a luxury hotel built in the 1920’s and sits on a hill overlooking the sea and its lovely gardens.

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MILAN, ITALY

Recently I had an opportunity to travel to Milan and the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. I only spent a few days in Milan near the Piazza del Duomo while starting my exploration of the Lombardy region.

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Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region in Northern Italy and is surrounded by the famous Lakes region. This city is usually associated with fashion, travel, finance and of course, architecture!

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Milan’s Gothic Cathedral towers over the Piazza del Duomo and is the 3rd largest in Europe and the country’s second largest behind St. Peters. On one side of the Piazza you will find The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele with its shops, all sorts of entertainment and rooftop bars and restaurants.

The impressive enclosed shopping arcade known as The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele features high end shops, like Gucci, Prada, Versace, Ferrari and Louis Vuitton. The 19th century Belle Epoque domed ceiling is the crowning piece of architecture.

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The Galleria was the first building in the city to have electric lighting!!

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The paintings at the base of the dome represent Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

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The Cathedral has stood on this spot in Milan for 2000 years. It has fifty-two 100′ pillars which represent weeks of the year.

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Don’t miss the chance to walk up to the roof and marvel at the 2245 marble statues and 135 marble spires that adorn the church.  The white marble was quarried in the nearby  lakes region of Lake Maggiore.

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Milan’s streets radiate out from the Duomo stretching out to its very contemporary financial district.

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If you are in this region be sure to find a day to visit Milan!

 

Vicenza

Do you love architecture? Then you will love Vicenza a UNESCO World Heritage Site! This city is a successful blend of old and new and the city of Palladio!

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Andrea Palladio

Vicenza is a very old city dating back to pre-Roman times before it was absorbed into the Roman empire in 157 BC. However, it is the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio who lived and worked in this city that it is associated with. Located in the Veneto region of Northeast Italy it was basically known as mainland Venice being situated between Venice and Verona and 120 miles east of Milan. Situated at the base of Monte Berico it straddles the Bacchiglione River. It’s known for the elegant buildings designed by the 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio who lived and worked here.

Lovely old neighborhoods along the river bank

Many of Palladio’s buildings still survive today including the Palladian Basilica and the Palazzo Chiericati, a Renaissance palace dating back to 1550, now home to an art gallery. His Palladian window was a source of inspiration for architects an designers around the world.

Basillica Palladiana
Basilica Palladiana

Basilica Palladiana, the most symbolic building of Vicenza is a very impressive building and one of the architectural highlights of the city. Constructed in the 15th century it is renowned for its loggia consisting of a series of ornate arches that run along both sides creating perfect symmetry and is opened in the warmer months where you can sit and enjoy an aperitivo or just take in the Piazza. It is one of the first examples of a Renaissance building to feature the Palladian window design.

In the center of Vicenza, the Piazza dei Signori is a historic landmark city square surrounded by Palladio’s masterpieces along with the Palazzo del Monte di Pieta, Chiesa di San Vincenzo, Loggia del Capitanio, Torre Bissara and the Lion of St. Mark and Christ the Redeemer columns. The leaning clock tower the Torre Bissara is from an old building previously on that site.

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Piazza dei Signori with Loggia dei Capitanio (on left)

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Torre Bissara

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The Lion of St. Mark’s with the Christmas lights still strung

Chiesa di San Vincenzo

The Cathedral of Vicenza- Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata, a Gothic style facade Roman Catholic church by Palladio in the 15th century built on the foundation of three earlier churches.  The bell tower dates from the 12th century and has 5 bells. The beautiful dome is a signature of Palladio.

Cathedral of Vicenza

 

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The portico surrounding the city is 700 meters long and has 150 arches for the 150 Hail Mary’s it is said.

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Vicenza

Palladio built more than 20 buildings at the eastern end of Corso Andrea Palladio one of the main streets in the historic old town center.  Like many main streets it is lined with palaces and other structures he designed. There are many fine shops and restaurants in this retail area. Of course, we stopped to enjoy my favorite an Aperol Spritz!  Which is your favorite Aperol or Campari!  I even discovered a new option called a Hugo Spritz made with St. Germaine!  Love IT!!!

 

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  1. THE QUINTESSENTIAL APERITIF

    Start by adding ice into the glass then pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol and add a splash of soda, top with a slice of orange. This serving avoids the Aperol settling at the bottom.

    Preparation Time: 5 min

    • step 1FILL A WINE GLASS WITH ICE
    • step 2COMBINE PROSECCO DOC FOLLOWED BY APEROL IN EQUAL PARTS
    • step 3ADD A DASH OF SODA
    • step 4GARNISH WITH AN ORANGE SLICE

Recipe Courtesy: Aperol

The city was redeveloped after its devastation during WW2 with industry becoming the major economic drive of business.

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Always take a minute and look back you never know what you’ll see! Chiesa di San Lorenzo

Nearby, also by Palladio, the Teatro Olimpico replicates a classic outdoor theater, indoors. Considered one of his most magnificent buildings. The interior is constructed entirely of stone, stucco and wood. The stage has stone statues on its facade, archways and plaster work.

On the outskirts of town, one of the most influential of Palladio’s buildings on a hill overlooking the city is the Villa La Rotonda with its 4 identical facades. This was historic as architecture was now being adapted to residential living. It’s amazing design and symmetry make it unique. Each side has a portico resembling the Pantheon in Rome which Palladio was inspired by.  If you are a fan of architecture I highly suggest you check this out on the internet as I could not get there as it was not in walking distance to the walled central historic district.

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Ponte San Michele

Did you miss the last few blogs on Verona?  Here is a link: Romeo, Romeo, where fore art thou – in Verona?  Feel free to sign up so you don’t miss a story.
I try to educate my readers just a little on the history of the locales I visit so you are not just seeing pretty pictures but truly experiencing a city thru my eyes.  You can search for the city of your choice on the home page or by topic.  There are stories on gardening, landscaping theory and of course, my favorite Italy! Enjoy and feel free to share!

Verona’s Bridges

First thing upon arriving, after we were challenged by the hordes of traffic for The International Motorcycle Show and Motor Bike Expo, we made our way to the river and the Museo di Castelvecchio. This 14th century fortified castle houses artifacts from the Middle Ages.  There are seven towers and even a draw bridge!

The Ponte Scaligero runs from Castelvecchio castle across the river and is a very distinctive bridge landmark in Verona.  The segmented arch bridge crossing the Adige River was the world’s largest span at the time of its construction in 1354. Along the river bank there are walking trails surrounding the city. The Scaligeri family ran Venice and the Veneto region in the 14th century much like the Medici’s ruled over Florence.  The castle has ornate tombs and towering family statues on pillars.  This so the people would “look up to them”.  Verona was, after all, one of Italy’s great powers.

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Ponte Scaligero

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Ponte Scaligero

Views from the Ponte Scaligero towards the Basilica di San Zeno


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Basilica di San Zeno from Ponte Scaligero

 

From the Ponte Scaligero you can see to the Ponte della Vittoria (see Featured photo) which also spans the Adige River. There are equestrian statues on either end and the view from the bridge back to the Ponte Scaligero and the Castelvecchio especially at sunset was amazing.  Since I got over there just before sunset I was too intent on the sunset over the Ponte Scaligero to capture the statues. Next time!

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Sunset over Verona’s Ponte Scaligero and Adige River

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The Ponte Pietra, Verona’s oldest bridge is a Roman-era stone bridge and you definitely want to walk across and up the hill to see the sunset and the views from the Castel San Pietro.  The bridge itself is very picturesque both day and night and affords some beautiful photo opportunities as you look up and down the river from the top of the bridge. Built in the 1st century B.C. it is the most ancient Roman monument in Verona.

Did you miss the last couple of blogs on Verona? Romeo, Romeo, where fore art thou – in Verona? and Churches of Verona?

Here is a link to Asiago 

If you love the blogs be sure to sign up so you don’t miss the upcoming ones.  Of course, if you are looking for something in particular you can search by topic or city on my homepage!

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